Robert L. Spitzer, the Columbia University psychiatry professor who convinced the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973, is now stirring controversy again by saying that homosexuals can change their orientation—if they want to. "The subjects' self-reports of change appear to be, by and large, valid, rather than gross exaggerations, brain-washing or wishful thinking," he summarizes. Spitzer interviewed 153 men and 47 women who said counseling had helped to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. ABCNews sums up the data: "66 percent of the men and 44 percent of women reached what he called good heterosexual functioning — a sustained, loving heterosexual relationship within the past year, getting enough emotional satisfaction to rate at least a seven on a 10-point scale."
Spitzer says that his findings "should not be misused to justify coercive treatment," but also criticizes the routine claim that therapy aimed at changing orientation can lead to extreme depression and suicidal tendencies. Instead, Spitzer says, many of his subjects had experienced depression and suicidal thoughts "precisely because they had previously thought there was no hope for them, and they had been told by many mental health professionals that there was no hope for them, they had to just learn to live with their homosexual feelings."
Gay activists say the study is taintedbecause 43 percent of those Spitzer studied had been referred to him by Christian ex-gay ministries like Exodus International. "It's snake oil, it's not science," says David Elliot, communications director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task ...1
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